Jurkowska-Kowalska Shines in Szczecin

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When gym fans think about Poland, Marta Pihan-Kulesza is typically the first – and sometimes only – name that comes to their minds.

Last weekend, however, Katarzyna Jurkowska-Kowalska of TS Wisla Krakow put herself on the map in a major way by winning the all-around title and three event medals at the Polish International Championship held in Szczecin, Poland.

The 23-year-old has been on the elite scene since 2009, when she first named an appearance at World Championships in London, though she struggled to put up big numbers on most of her events. Like Pihan-Kulesza, however, she has gotten tremendously better with age, putting up impressive performances on beam at Cottbus in the past couple of years, getting a skill named after her on floor (a split ring jump with a full turn), and now defeating her teammate, who is struggling with injury.

Jurkowska-Kowalska finished her all-around meet last weekend with a score of 56.183, besting Pihan-Kulesza by roughly half a point. Both gymnasts had strong performances, but Jurkowska-Kowalska’s beam brought her over the top, as she scored a 14.5 with a 6.1 start value, a huge deal for the gymnast who at times has struggled to make both the impressive difficulty and strong execution happen simultaneously.

But it all worked out for her this time around, and her all-around performance was no fluke – in addition to her 14.5 there, she also earned a 14.7 for gold in event finals, a score that would have easily seen her make the finals at this year’s major international meets. In addition to two golds, the gymnast picked up floor silver and vault bronze, though bars was a bit of an issue for her in event finals and while there’s no video, I believe she stepped off of the event early due to an issue, as she had just a 2.1 start value and finished with a 7.85.

Pihan-Kulesza was able to compete in the all-around, but an ankle injury – first sustained at the final Serie A meet in Italy – kept her from event finals, and she was later seen using a walker in the competition hall to get around. Her all-around score of 55.600 was excellent, however, and she looked consistent on all four of her events, with beam the weakest at 13.2. She’s had a very busy year thus far this season, so hopefully now she’ll be able to get a bit of rest so her ankle can heal before she continues on.

In bronze medal position was Paula Plichta, earning a 52.683 after looking clean everywhere but bars, where she’s generally quite weak and earned just 11.4. Her beam is excellent, earning a 14.0 in the all-around competition with a 5.9 start value and some excellent big skills in her repertoire, though she unfortunately fell on the event in finals, earning just a 12.65 for 4th place. She was otherwise successful, however, picking up golds on vault (where she averaged 13.675) and floor (13.6) as well as silver on bars (11.4 again).

Gabriela Janik placed 4th in the all-around with a 52.500, just behind Plichta, but she came away successful in event finals with golds on vault and bars and bronze medals on beam and floor. Her bars were most exciting, as she was one of the only gymnasts working with a D-score above a 5.0, and she was able to hit it cleanly as well, earning a 13.45 in finals. Her difficulty on beam and floor is a bit low, but she executed well on both.

While Klara Kopec only performed on beam at this meet, she made it worth her while, winning the silver medal n event finals with a score of 13.4 after hitting her 5.1 difficulty. Lastly, the bars bronze medalist was Walentyna Smolka, a new senior who doesn’t quite yet have the ability to hit strongly, but she did attempt a 5.0 start value on the event, finishing with a 10.25 after some sloppy execution. She was 5th in the all-around, though earned just a 45.300, more than seven points behind Janik in 4th.

At the moment, Pihan-Kulesza, Jurkowska-Kowalska, and Janik are the three set to compete at the European Games this June, though if Pihan-Kulesza is still dealing with injury, Plichta proved last weekend to be a worthy replacement, especially with her great ability on beam and floor.

In the junior competition, Patrycja Dronia won the all-around with a 47.266 and was followed by Wanda Drelicharz with a 43.166 for silver and Agata Boraczynska with a 43.116 for bronze. Dronia also won the titles on bars (10.65) and floor (12.6) while Drelicharz won vault (averaging 12.25) and Oliwia Szymska won beam with an 11.7.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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